A Strange Instrument With An Even Stranger History!

A Strange Instrument With An Even Stranger History!

Scroll to view videos of theremin players.

It is a strange instrument with a very strange history and it just might be world’s strangest and spookiest musical instrument. If you have ever finger painted, just imagine finger painting in space and you may begin to picture what it might be like to play this exotic instrument used by a varied cast of musical characters: Jimmy Page, The Beatles, Pamelia Kurstin and Carolina Eyck, to name a few.

“It’s a very hard instrument,” Schwimmer said. “There’s nothing there to help you. You have no reference. And so if you’re standing in front of the Theremin and your body is a little bit this way or a little bit that way, or if you’ve put on an eighth of a pound, your field will be different,” says Rob Schwimmer. “It’s like So waking up every morning if you’re a violinist, and having the neck be that much shorter or that much longer.” Of if you play piano, having more or less keys than the day or week before.

Leon Theremin invented the instrument. Not only is the instrument mysterious but so is Theremin too.

“Leon Theremin was a Russian scientist, [and] he was a spy,” said Glinsky. “And inventor of what is probably the most unusual musical instrument ever invented. You’re actually moving your two hands through two electromagnetic fields that are around two antennas.”

In 1919, 23-year-old Leon Theremin invented his namesake by accident.

“He was working in a laboratory in Russia as a young scientist, he was actually working on a gas meter to measure the density of gases,” Glinsky said. “So as he brought his hand closer to the gas meter, he heard kind of a higher squeal. And as he brought his hand back to his body and away from the machine, it was a slower squeal.

“And he started to play melodies on this thing. And lab assistants and his boss in the lab started to gather around and said, ‘Well, this is amazing.'”

Later, Theremin worked on and devised an actual musical instrument based on his discovery. It debuted in the US in 1928 in places like Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House to name a couple. It proved to be very difficult to play and remained an odd musical instrument.

Hollywood to the rescue! Turns out the Theremin’s eerie, ethereal sounds were perfect for horror and suspense movies, from the low-budget . . . to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. And later in the 60’s, bands like Captian Beefheart make this odd instrument a cool instrument with newer musicians.

Here is Leon Theremin playing his own creation along with some other samples. What a cool and intriguing instrument. I am truly amazed watching some who have mastered it, play it!


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